In the 90’s, I oscillated from liking and disliking Manson. I loved the band’s sound along with his thematically inventive lyrics and striking vocals, but gathered from his look and interviews that he was just shocking for the sake of shocking. The vivid yet desolate aural landscape and hyperrelavent theological, political, sociological, and ultimately personal sentiments of “Holywood” convinced me otherwise. It demonstrated that his shock was a means to an artistic/intellectual end. After hearing that album, I had a much deeper appreciation of his past albums.
Then the trajectory turned downward. “Golden Age of Grotesque” didn’t seem to say as much as his previous albums, lyrically or musically (especially the last third of the album). But overall, it was a clever indictment of our culture. “Eat Me, Drink Me” had raw righteousness and more tone colors, but some songs were noticeably bland at times. Upon hearing that Twiggy was returning, I anxiously awaited a return to form on the new album.
In short, “The High End of Low” isn’t a return to form. It seemingly expotentiated the bland qualities of his last effort while offering roughly nothing new. Repeated power chords, repeated mantras, repeated “shocking” lines nowhere near as emotionally engaging or thought-provoking as any of his old albums.
I listened to every song, but barely made it through the half-way point of most of them. The few things I liked were the feel of Devour and We’re From America, the acoustic riff of Four Rusted Horses (but again, it repeated too much), and the structure of Running to the Edge of the World. All a little new, and little different, a little metal. But “little” is the key term, as these few things were dwarfed by the quarter-baked blandness of the vast majority of the album.
I honestly don’t know what happened. Between rejoining Twiggy and having more than enough reasons to shred our society, one would think Manson would prepare his magnum opus. My guess is the drugs and romantic obsession are to blame. The “daily fantasizing about smashing her head in with a sledgehammer” comment in a recent interview wasn’t provokingly disturbing, just disturbing. I’ll chant “We hate love, we love hate” any day of the week, but that comment just leads me to worry that the unparalleled intellectual and artistic powerhouse Marilyn Manson is no longer reflecting our sick society, but succumbing to it. This album could very well be the end. But not a burn out, just a fade away.
I would suggest to Manson that he quit feigning rebirth and do it. Return the songs and lyrics to form or go in a radically new direction. Do another Antichrist…or do a gospel album. Don’t become the media caricature. Destroy it.